Teenagers and Politics

If you asked the average teenager which actor was dating whom, they’d probably be able to tell you off the top of their head. Ask the same teenager who their local MLA is, and they’d probably have to Google it. 

However, it isn’t entirely their fault; celebrity-related content is always marketed more aggressively by news companies. Most millennial and Gen Z audiences get their information socially and digitally, which is a problem as these sources often spread false information [1]. In comparison, news outlets that accurately fact check their information do more work than false sites, but they are still neglected by many teenagers. Teenagers and other young audiences must take matters into their own hands and rely primarily on accurate news outlets to stay knowledgeable about current developments. The importance of being aware is paramount. For example, the elected presidential candidate will have a major effect on how we pay our taxes, handle finances, and progress in terms of infrastructure. The government has a major role in our economy and lifestyle, so it is crucial to stay informed at all times. In addition, the president makes a direct impact on the lives of teenagers; he oversees high school and college education, and determines the allocation of federal funds. Scheck Hillel’s prized history teacher, Michael Farley, explains, “Since I have been alive, at this time that we are living in today, the United States is the most divided that I have ever seen the country be. Obviously, as a kid, I don’t remember much, but I was interested in history and I looked up to the president at the time, Ronald Regan. From my own experience, I have looked up to the presidents as role models from a young age, even if I didn’t agree with them or what the office had to say. Therefore, I think it is important for kids to know about the government and the political situation that they are living in, especially now more than ever. Teenagers should see what is going on around them because if you want to make a difference as an adult, you need to know the past. The past and history will give you knowledge and strong support in your attempt to make a change and improve our country as the upcoming generation because, when I am an old man, I am going to be looking at the teenagers now to make a difference in the world.” Denying history’s importance causes many to miss out on it as it unfolds. However, political awareness permits adolescents to better navigate their own ideas and beliefs, be less ignorant, and defy the myth that younger generations don’t care [2]. 

Teenagers make many excuses for not being politically aware. For example, teenagers may say that politics are boring, feel like voting won’t make a difference, are not taught how the government and elections work, or aren’t tasked or encouraged to vote by candidates, campaigns, family, friends, and neighbors [3]. All these justifications are valid concerns, but they do not restrain teenagers from attaining political awareness should they demonstrate a willingness to put in sufficient effort. To increase their political involvement, teens may sign petitions, join an issue-based organization, talk to their family members about their concerns, and spread their message on social media (an area of expertise for many teenagers) [4]. 

Signing petitions is a great way to start using one’s voice politically. This action – consuming a short amount of time – can have a major payoff down the road. There are a variety of websites dedicated to helping petitions gain influence: Change.org and We the People are two among many. Furthermore, one may feel that spreading a campaign’s posts and diffusing one’s political knowledge through social media may seem insignificant, but keeping friends updated about registration deadlines and policy changes – especially in the COVID-19 era – will feel more relevant coming from a close friend rather than an organization. One of the most influential youth-led actions occurred when the student wing of the civil rights movement – The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – had its chairman, John Lewis, speak beside MLK Jr. at the March on Washington [5]. Through hard work and perseverance, the student activism of John Lewis and his committee resulted in the lowering of the voting age. A student in high school, Daniel Zuchaer, said, “I am a politically aware individual, maybe not at the level a registered voter should be, but enough to formulate my own political opinions. I’ve watched the news often and read at least one political article every morning to catch up on the president’s agenda. Although the current president may be egotistical at times, his economic experience and foreign relation abilities make him the perfect prospect during a time where the economy and foreign relationships are the number one priority. Trump proved his skill with the recent negotiations and deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Also, in the economy, its status ally proved that minority racial groups are experiencing a golden age in job opportunities.” When asked to describe the importance of political awareness, Daniel explained, “Being politically aware isn’t an option, it’s a survival tactic.” Despite common political negligence, Daniel proves that a teenager can formulate an argument in a political conversation with adults. Any teenager can – should they desire to – grasp a wide knowledge of politics if they decide to make the change and devote a small amount of time during their day towards discovering and truly understanding the world around them, even if they can’t legally vote.

 

Sources:

  1. https://youthincmag.com/the-importance-of-being-politically-aware
  2. https://studybreaks.com/thoughts/5-reasons-political-aware/
  3. https://ysa.org/4-reasons-young-people-dont-vote-and-what-to-do-about-it/
  4. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-to-get-involved-election-if-under-18
  5. https://www.jewishboston.com/why-and-how-teens-can-be-politically-engaged-even-during-quarantine/



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